This Week in Amateur Radio
This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago
Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station are expected to activate Amateur Radio Slow Scan Television (SSTV) transmissions on 145.800 MHz FM on July 30 and 31 The SSTV experiment should be active on Monday, July 30, 1600 – 1930 UTC, and Tuesday, July 31, 1325 – 1915 UTC, using the RS0ISS call sign. SSTV images will be transmitted using the Kenwood TM-D710 transceiver in the Russian ISS Service Module. Format is expected to be PD-120. More information on SSTV from the ISS is on the AMSAT-UK website.
ARRL has been exhibiting for the first time ever this week at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 in Wisconsin. The ARRL exhibit complements other ham radio demonstrations at the air show. ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, is working with a team of members who are supporting the exhibit at the weeklong aviation celebration and fly-in. The annual event draws more than 500,000 visitors. Inderbitzen said that by mid-week, the ARRL guest book was filled with call signs from around the world. “Cool! ARRL is here! That’s the sentiment shared by hundreds of ham radio operators who have visited our exhibit at AirVenture this week,” Inderbitzen said. ARRL Life Member and flight instructor TJ Johnson, K9KJ, of Munster, Indiana, was among those stopping by the ARRL booth. He shared his experience of operating aeronautical mobile during ARRL Field Day with his friend Bob Johnson, W9XY. They made hundreds of radio contacts from a Cessna 182 aircraft, 7,000 feet above the Wisconsin countryside. They operated on 20-meter CW using an end-fed wire; they also made many contacts on 2-meter FM simplex.
ARRL Hudson Division Director and ad hoc Legislative Advocacy Committee Chair Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, says removal of Amateur Radio Parity Act (HR 555) language from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report this week was unfortunate, but does not kill the initiative. The Parity Act would ask the FCC to grant radio amateurs living in deed-restricted communities the right to install effective outdoor antennas. Lisenco said today that while the language was removed from the final NDAA Conference Report, other viable options remain to see the Parity Act succeed. “We were disappointed the Parity language didn’t survive the conference process, but we do have other House-passed legislative vehicles that contain the language, including the Financial Services & General Government Appropriations bill, which funds the FCC,” Lisenco said.
The participants in the 2018 Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure (YDXA) at PJ2Y in Curacao put 6,218 contacts into the log before having to shut down on July 23. “There was a concentrated effort to have an FT8 station on the air as much as possible,” recounted Team Leader Jim Storms, AB8YK. “Also two additional radios were on the air almost constantly. One was on SSB and the other alternated between SSB and CCW. All CW QSOs were made by the youth.” Storms reported “a few challenges” during their stay. “During prime band-opening time on 2 days, we had power losses resulting in lost time. This amounted to about 8 hours,” he said. On days when the young radio amateurs were on the air, bands did not open until about 10 AM local, and the team typically operated until midnight, when most bands closed there. Storms said the young team members were “very compatible and worked extremely well together.” A QSL card will be designed and printed soon. The entire log has been loaded to LoTW and to Club Log. — Thanks to Team Leader Jim Storms, AB8YK
Operators on the upcoming VP6D Ducie Island DXpedition, set for October 20 – November 3, are looking forward to their turn at the Elecraft radio equipment used by the KH1/KH7Z Baker Island team. In a recent news release, the VP6D team reported that its plans to activate Ducie Island this fall are on schedule, and the Baker Island radio gear has been returned to Elecraft for inspection, testing, and refurbishing. Members of the VP6D team will travel to California in early August to get the gear ready for shipment to New Zealand. Team member Jacky Calvo, ZL3CW, will then transfer the shipment to the M/V Braveheart, which will carry the VP6D team from New Zealand to its operating destination. Nigel Jolly, K6NRJ, is the captain of the Braveheart. The VP6D team said it is planning to use FT8 as part of its mode mix on Ducie. “There’s no question that the Baker team had considerable success with FT8,” the VP6D release said. “However, a large percentage of the callers weren’t prepared for the challenges of this new mode. We ask everyone to please read the FT8 DXpedition Mode User Guide. It will be in everyone’s best interest if callers use the most recent software version, correctly configure their equipment, call VP6D above 1,000 Hz, and call in the correct sequence.”
WSJT-X co-developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, has announced that major changes are coming to the FT8 and MSK144 digital protocols when WSJT-X version 2.0 arrives in a few months. Taylor said version 2.0 should be ready for prime time by January. “Much of the necessary programming is finished,” Taylor said in a post to the Packrats reflector. “Many of the new features have been tested on the air, and we find them to work well.” Taylor was quick to point out that the new capabilities are not yet publicly available, not even in beta form. He said that he, Steve Franke, K9AN, and Bill Somerville, G4WJS, have been developing “enhanced versions of the MSK144 and FT8 protocols that extend the message payload to 77 bits.”
Marking its 21st anniversary this year, the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW) in August will celebrate Amateur Radio operation at several lighthouses that will make debut appearances in this year’s event. So far, 300 groups or individuals have registered to indicate plans to participate from a lighthouse or lightship during the 2-day operating activity. Newcomers joining the list of perennials include the Ashdod and Mount Carmel lighthouses in Israel; Shabla Lighthouse in Bulgaria; Porthcawl Breakwater in Wales, and Tanjung Datu in Malaysia. Additional newcomers are in Mexico and Cuba, sponsors said. ILLW is always held on the third full weekend in August. This year, it will get under way at 0001 UTC on August 18 and continue until 2400 on August 19 — 48 hours in all. The ILLW typically attracts more than 500 lighthouse entries in dozens of countries. Registration is not required for participation, but it does let other stations know which lighthouses and lightships will be activated. Other lighthouses making a first appearance in ILLW include Malarrif in Iceland and Akmanrags Lighthouse in Latvia. The Lightship Huron on the St Clair River in Michigan also is a newcomer.
We’ve been following the ups and downs of Radio Shack for a while now, and it looks like another chapter is about to be penned in the storied retailer’s biography – and not Chapter 11 bankruptcy this time. According to the ARRL website and major media reports, up to 50 of the 147 US locations of HobbyTown, the brick-and-mortar retailer of RC and other hobby supplies, will soon host a “RadioShack Express” outlet. Each outlet will be up to 500 square feet of retail space devoted to electronic components that would be of use to HobbyTown’s core customer base, as well as other merchandise and services. HobbyTown locations in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Ontario, Ohio, will be among the first stores to get the RadioShack Express treatment. Current employees of the franchisees will staff the store-within-a-store, which will be stocked with RadioShack merchandise purchased by the store. Stores with Express outlets will have special RadioShack branding inside and out to attract customers. There’s talk of the deal being extended chain-wide if the pilot program goes well.
The small Southeast Asia nation of Thailand is reported to be the country with the world’s third largest population of radio amateurs — a total of 101,763 as of last February, or slightly fewer than California’s 106,000 Amateur Radio licensees. The Thai ham radio count represents a drop from a reported high of 247,676 hams in May 2012. Only the US and Japan outrank Thailand in terms of the number of radio amateurs. Thailand has a population of about 68 million, and the vast majority of the current Thai ham population are Novice operators, which have privileges on 10 and 2 meters. Intermediate and Advanced licensees make up the remainder; both of those classes may operate all bands authorized in Thailand, the only distinction being authorized power. Only in the past 2 years have individuals been able to take the exams for the Intermediate and Advanced licenses. All statistics were included in a report to the International Amateur Radio Union Region 3 conference this September in South Korea.
Pioneering 1970s electronic music band Kraftwerk performed an extremely unusual duet last week, playing live on stage in conjunction with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst aboard the International Space Station. The event took place as part of Stuttgart’s Jazz Open Festival on 20 July 2018. After introductions, they played a special duet version of the track Spacelab, for which Alexander Gerst had a tablet computer configured with virtual synthesisers. You can find full details on Gerst’s blog.
Orban Labs, headquartered in Pennsauken, New Jersey, has donated a state-of-the-art audio processor — the all-digital 9300 OPTIMOD-AM — to ARRL. Orban Labs Vice President of Business Development Mike Pappas, W9CN, arranged for the donation with the intention of improving the audio quality transmitted by W1AW during its evening phone bulletins. The 9300 OPTIMOD-AM is used worldwide at broadcast stations that want the best possible “sound.” W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, installed the 9300 OPTIMOD-AM into W1AW’s audio chain. After making necessary set-up adjustments and working with instructions that Pappas provided, he determined that overall average modulation had increased and audio clarity was improved.
Chances are you have at least one radio that can receive FM stations. Even though FM is becoming less used now with Internet and satellite options, it still is more popular than the older AM radio bands. FM was the brainchild of an inventor you may have heard of — Edwin Armstrong — but you probably don’t know the whole story. It could make a sort of radio-themed soap opera. It is a story of innovation, but also a story of personal vanity, corporate greed, stubbornness, marital problems, and even suicide. The only thing missing is a long-lost identical twin sibling to turn it into a full telenovela.
The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) believes that Amateur Radio innovation is alive and well. “Amateur research and innovation is far from over; indeed, we may well be at the dawn of its greatest era,” the UK’s International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society concluded in an RSGB 2022 strategy narrative posted on its website. “In an age where the costs of commercial equipment can be as little as [about $25] for a new and capable VHF/UHF FM handheld, some may wonder if the incentive to experiment and construct may have withered,” RSGB observed. “However, the sheer variety and low cost of equipment, sophisticated parts, free software, and the advent of SDR [(software-defined radio) have] created unprecedented opportunities for those inclined to dabble, hack, and innovate. Across all our bands, we have already witnessed the rise in digital modes, software, and advanced equipment.” RSGB said such innovation forms a key element of its case at World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC 2019) favoring a “harmonized” 6-meter amateur allocation in IARU Region 1.
A crack team of contesters from Lithuania has won the gold medal in World Radiosport Team Championship 2018 (WRTC 2018), held over the weekend in Germany. Operating as Y81N, Gedas Lucinskas, LY9A, and Mindis Jukna, LY4L, topped the real-time scoreboard for much of the event, which is held as a competition within a contest in conjunction with the IARU HF Championship. Lucinskas and Jukna had ended up in sixth place during WRTC 2014, held in New England. They posted a final score of 5,690,685 points, logging 5,139 contacts, with a heavy emphasis on CW. Conditions during the weekend competition were mediocre at best. Taking second place to the pleasure of the German sponsors was the Y81A team of Manfred Wolf, DJ5MW, and Stefan von Baltz, DL1IAO, with 5,273,488 points, with 4,936 contacts, a majority on CW. They placed third in a nail-biting finale for the bronze at WRTC 2014. The mostly German audience gave Wolf and Baltz a huge ovation.
Results of the 18th USA National Championships of Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) are now in the record books. Some of those who took part in that event now are hoping to win positions on ARDF Team USA, which will travel to Sokcho, Korea, in early September for the 19th ARDF World Championships. IARU rules limit national teams to three persons per age/gender category. This year’s USA National Championships took place near the ski resort town of Truckee, California. Events included foxoring, a combination of ARDF and classic orienteering on 80 meters; 80-meter sprint, and classic 2-meter and 80-meter ARDF competitions.
According to a July 13 article in the New York Post, RadioShack is planning to open “express stores” within HobbyTown USA locations. The nearly century-old, twice-bankrupt retailer has signed a deal with HobbyTown USA to put a mini-RadioShack outlet in some 50 HobbyTown USA stores across the country that would sell items that might appeal to radio amateurs and experimenters. Those locations will be identified with RadioShack signage. HobbyTown markets remote-controlled cars and boats as well as drones and other hobby-related merchandise. RadioShack shuttered all of its company-owned retail outlets. Its last unsuccessful effort to bail itself out of debt involved a deal with cellular provider Sprint. HobbyTown USA has 140 retail outlets, and, according to the Post article, RadioShack eventually could carve out a presence — on the order of 500 square feet — in all of them. HobbyTown USA stores in Parker, Colorado, and Mooresville, North Carolina, will be among the first to host RadioShack express stores. “HobbyTown is purchasing the RadioShack merchandise and offering it to its hobbyist customers who need the tools, wires, and other accessories that RadioShack makes,” the Post article said.
What does a Harley-Davidson motorcycle have to do with building antennas? Absolutely nothing, unless you happen to have one and need to work-harden copper wire to build a collinear antenna for LoRa. We’ll explain. Never being one to settle, [Andreas Spiess] needed a better antenna for his LoRa experiments. Looking for high gain and an omnidirectional pattern, he bought a commercial colinear antenna, which is a wire with precisely spaced loops that acts like a stack of dipoles. Sadly, in a head-to-head test [Andreas] found that the commercial antenna was no better than lower gain antennas in terms of range, and so he decided to roll his own. Copper wire is a great material for antennas since it can be easily formed without special tools and it solders like a champ. But the stuff you get at the home center is nowhere near stiff enough for a free-standing vertical whip. This is where the Harley came in: [Andreas] used his Hog to stretch out the 1.75-mm diameter (a little bigger than #14 AWG) copper wire. Not only did the work-hardening stiffen the wire, it reduced its diameter to the 1.4 mm needed for the antenna design. His vector network analyzer told him that ground-plane elements and a little fiddling with the loop diameter were needed to get the antenna to resonate at 868 MHz, but in the end it looks like the antenna is on track to deliver 5-dBi of gain. Of course there are plenty of other ways to stretch out a wire — you could just stretch it out with hanging weights, or even with a go-kart motor-powered winch if you’re ambitious. But if you’ve got a bike like that, why not flaunt it?
The Dayton Amateur Radio Board of Directors has appointed Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, of Springboro, Ohio, as the General Chairman for Hamvention 2019. Gerbs, who served as Assistant General Chairman for the 2017 and 2018 Hamventions, succeeds Ron Cramer, KD8ENJ, who served in the post for the 2017 and 2018 shows. “Jack worked very closely with me the last 2 years and is very familiar with all aspects of Hamvention,” Cramer said. “He was a big help during the move and is well prepared to continue making Hamvention better each year.” Gerbs thanked Cramer for helping him prepare for the position. “Ron kept me well informed and included in all the major decisions while adapting to Hamvention’s new home. I look forward to building on the solid foundation he set,” he said.
Radio waves are received on antennas, for which when the signal in question comes over a long distance a big reflector is needed. When the reception distance is literally astronomical, the reflector has to be pretty darn big. [The Thought Emporium] wants to pick up signals from distant satellites, the moon, and hopefully a pulsar. On the scale of home-built amateur radio, this will be a monstrous antenna. The video also follows the break. In hacker fashion, the project is built on a budget, so all the parts are direct from a hardware store, and the tools are already in your toolbox or hackerspace. Electrical conduit, chicken wire, PVC pipes, wood blocks, and screws make up most of the structure so put away your crazy links to Chinese distributors unless you need an SDR. The form of the antenna is the crucial thing, and the shape is three perpendicular panels as seen in the image and video. The construction in the video is just a suggestion, but it doesn’t involve welding, so that opens it to even more amateurs. Even if you are not trying to receive a pulsar’s signature, we have hacks galore for radios and antennas.
According to the Association of Radio Amateurs of Slovenia (ZRS), radio amateurs in Slovenia now have a 60-meter band available to them as of July 14. The allocation is 5.351.5 – 5.366.5 MHz, with a maximum EIRP of 15 W, in accordance with the Final Acts of World Radiocommunication Conference 2015, with operation on a secondary basis. This band will be available to Class A licensees in Slovenia. — Thanks to IARU Region 1 HF Manager Tom Kamp, DF5JL, via Southgate Amateur Radio News